Archives For Accessories

Chromecast for Christmas

Mari Silbey —  November 25, 2013 — 17 Comments

Chromecast stocking

There may be no better excuse to buy gadgets en masse than the holiday shopping season, and this year Google has nailed the stocking-stuffer price point at $35 for its Chromecast streaming video stick. It’s not just Christmas either, of course. I’m a sucker for alliteration, but in reality, Chromecast is going to be the gift of choice for many a holiday celebration this winter.

Chromecast has a lot more going for it than just price. Google added HBO support last week and is reportedly getting ready to release an SDK to developers in the near future. The more apps that integrate with the hardware, the more valuable Chromecast becomes. As someone with a Roku box, I was initially uninterested in using Chromecast for to watch Netflix. However, I installed the Chromecast plug-in on my first-gen iPad, and when the tablet prompted me to choose between my mobile device and my Chromecast-connected TV to continue watching a show on Netflix, I decided to test Chromecast viewing.

The result? Continue Reading…

Chromecast photo sharing local media

Thanks to Google, you can’t stream local content with third-party apps via Chromecast anymore. But you don’t need an app to share content with a Chromecast device.

At least as far as photos are concerned, it’s easy to port pictures over to a TV set using the Chrome web browser. Go to File-Open, or hit Control “O” in a new tab and select the photo from your computer to launch. The photo opens in the browser, and you can then cast that tab to your TV.

Videos are a little more complicated. Continue Reading…

Chromecast set-up 3

I spent more time playing with Chromecast this weekend while also contemplating the ongoing CBS blackout for Time Warner subscribers. At the moment, CBS is also blocking access to its shows on CBS.com for TWC subs. However, there is some legal argument that the network shouldn’t be able to discriminate against a specific set of viewers online. If that notion ever gains traction, then online access could be a viable alternative to watching CBS on cable.

Which led me to test out streaming from the CBS website. With Chromecast.

The good news is that casting the CBS stream to your TV is extremely easy. Switch TV inputs, open up CBS in your Chrome browser, click the Google Cast button, and you’re good to go. The bad news is that the video quality is atrocious. I’m not a pixel snob, but I was on the verge of getting nauseous trying to watch the disjointed playback. Continue Reading…

Chromecast set-up 1

I have barely scratched the surface of what Chromecast can do (although Janko has a lengthy review), and already I love it. Here are a few things I’ve learned from laptop streaming only. More experimentation to come with smartphones and iPads.

Lessons Learned

1. Set-up is extremely fast and easy. I know it’s already been said by others, but it bears repeating. I plugged the stick into my TV, navigated to the Chromecast set-up page on my laptop browser, typed in the code listed on my TV screen, gave my Chromecast a name, and that was it. The only hiccup I ran into was that my laptop briefly disconnected from my wireless network during set-up. Once I reconnected it, Chromecast worked instantly. Continue Reading…

Eye-Fi Mobi

Eye-Fi has launched the Eye-Fi Mobi, a new camera SD card designed to let you share photos directly from your camera to your mobile devices. This isn’t entirely new, but Eye-Fi claims the set-up process is simpler than ever, requiring “no computer, no account and no cloud.” The price tag is also niftier than before; just $50 for an 8GB card, or $80 for the 16GB version.

We’ve been fans of Eye-Fi for years at ZNF, but I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve used one of their camera cards. The Mobi doesn’t require an Internet connection, but instead directly pairs your camera with a smartphone or tablet. Back in the day, I used my Eye-Fi card to transfer photos automatically to my PC, and then upwards to the cloud as needed. The Mobi doesn’t connect with computers – which is a bit silly – but that may not be a deal-breaker anymore given the proliferation of all things mobile. Users can download the free Eye-Fi iOS or Android app to an unlimited number of devices and share, share away.

For a while I tried to make do with my smartphone for all photo-taking excursions. However, I finally broke down and asked for a real (albeit still inexpensive) camera last Christmas. The quality in most situations is still infinitely better than that of my HTC Thunderbolt. Of course now I just have more digital photos in more places. Perhaps an Eye-Fi Mobi card can help fix the problem.

Prior to the division’s potential sale, Logitech’s last Harmony remote control models have started arriving at Best Buy. The Harmony Ultimate and (soon) the Harmony Smart Control join the Touch and 650 on a revamped retail display. Both new models ship with a the “Harmony Hub” – which appears to represent the evolution of the Harmony Link, bringing smartphone integration and RF capabilities. At $350, the Ultimate is too rich for my blood. And having spent time with the Touch, it’s hard to justify at even $250. However, the Smart Control at $130 appears quite interesting. It ships with a screenless Harmony remote and that aforementioned Hub. Knowing my smartphone blows away the Ultimate/Touch’s display in presentation and responsiveness, this seems like a fairly clever hybrid solution. One I intend on checking out…

fitbit-aria

After four months with the Fitbit Aria WiFi Smart Scale ($130), I haven’t shed any significant weight. However, should I find the motivation to improve my fitness and diet, I do believe the Aria will provide an attractive and effective mechanism for tracking my progress. But let’s back up a bit…

As our homes and appliances collectively gain sentience via Internet connectivity, health gadgetry has become something of hot topic. The current crop of digital pedometers doesn’t do much for me, but a WiFi scale with automated tracking and charting is appealing. In this burgeoning new category, there are basically two manufacturers to choose from: Withings and Fitbit. And I went with the Fitbit Aria primarily because it clocked in $30 cheaper than Withings (at the time) and Fitbit has decent buzz due to the success of those aforementioned activity trackers (that don’t do much for me). So, while Withings may have a more sophisticated display, at the end of the day I’m just looking for two numbers — weight and body fat percentage. Assuming both products provide similar accuracy, which I can’t definitively address. Continue Reading…